The Bluebirds of Happiness

And maybe it’s enough…in these days that are so close to turning warm and bright and green again, when we are so close to being released from the prison of our homes, to think of happiness as neither distant nor grand. Perhaps it would help to remember that even now happiness is only what it has ever been: something that lights before us, immediate and insistent and always fleeting. Not a promise at all but a temporary gift. It lands, and lifts away, and returns again, ever flashing its wings.

How beautifully expressed and how spot-on for this day and time. The writer is Margaret Renkl and I took the quote from her recent opinion column in the NYTimes – a regular column which focuses on the “flora, fauna, politics and culture in the American South.” 

Renkl’s 2019 book …about the joy and grief we humans experience, intertwined with the optimism the natural world may bring.

This particular column from Renkl is entitled “The Happiness I’ve Discovered in My Backyard.” Among the multitudes of birds coming to her backyard mealworm feeder – mockingbirds, wrens, juncos, doves, jays – none seems to appeal to Renkl more than the bluebirds.

Watching the tumult of their azure wings one morning, I said aloud to the empty house, “A happiness of bluebirds.” I was sure I’d heard the phrase somewhere before. It seemed so apt, the way all the other songbird collectives are apt: a radiance of cardinals, a quarrel of sparrows, a trembling of finches, a scold of jays, a murder of crows. Why not a happiness of bluebirds, for who could fail to take heart from birds who carry the summer sky so faithfully on their backs in the slender light of winter?

Turns out there’s no widely recognized collective noun for bluebirds, at least none that I could find. I had simply made one up out of my own deep, unrecognized need.

The Happiness of Bluebirds. It’s a lovely expression but I don’t think it’s new and unheard of. The minute I read “the happiness of bluebirds” I burst into song (ignoring Andy’s raised eyebrows), doing my best on “The Bluebird of Happiness.” I had to point out how well known that expression is – albeit reversed from Renkl’s. You’ve really got to hear it sung by Jan Peerce, not me.

But while I was singing about bluebirds and happiness, Andy was mumbling and grumbling about how bluebirds are probably not all that happy (or maybe he was grumbling about my singing). In today’s Andy’s Corner Andy even snarks about how bluebirds are not really blue! I don’t believe it.

But back to the song. Don’t snicker about how dated it sounds. Rather, listen to the still-relevant lyrics, admire Peerce’s beautiful operatic tenor voice, and remember that this song was written for Peerce in 1934. Peerce was Jewish. Hitler had just been named Der Führer.

For every bit of darkness,
There’s a little bit of light.
For every bit of hatred,
There’s a little bit of love.
For every cloudy morning,

There’s a midnight moon above. (lyrics from “The Bluebird of Happiness”)

Food can bring happiness too. Or not. Andy, the sociologist, should be proud of me for finding a published article from the University of Toronto written by three social psychologists on “exposure to fast food impedes happiness.” That’s why I’m enthused to have found The perfect HOMEMADE blueberry muffins! I haven’t liked a blueberry muffin since having been overexposed to Betty Crocker’s 1959 introduction of boxes of Wild Blueberry Muffin mix.

What’s the secret to these perfect muffins? Well, they’re not too sweet; they’re moist – but mostly it’s because they’re made with sour cream – or if you’re really wild and crazy, the perfect mix of sour cream AND Mexican crema. Pure happiness.

Best Ever Blueberry Muffins

Best Ever Blueberry Muffins

Note: my 6 oz pack of fresh blueberries was just the right amount – about 1 c – for this recipe. If you’re using frozen blueberries, rinse them with cold water while still frozen, dry them lightly with paper towels, and then dust them with flour.  Mix them ever so gently into the batter before they totally defrost.  Adapted from Elise Bauer and

  • 1 2/3 c flour, plus 1 tablespoon for dusting the blueberries
  • 2 tsp baking powder 
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp Diamond kosher salt
  • 6 T butter, melted
  • 2/3 c sugar
  • 2  eggs
  • 1 c sour cream (we like to mix 1/2 c Mexican crema – or creme fraiche – with 1/2 c of sour cream for the ultimate taste experience)
  • 1 T milk
  • 3/4 tsp vanilla 
  • 1/2 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 c blueberries, fresh or frozen

Preheat oven to 375°F.  Generously grease 10-12 muffin cups or use muffin liners (note: muffin pans vary a little in size, so that’s why I’m giving you a range).  

Place the blueberries in a bowl. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of flour over them and gently toss to coat.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the sour cream, sugar, eggs, milk, melted butter, lemon zest, and vanilla until smooth. 

Add the dry ingredients to the butter/sugar/egg mixture a third at a time and mix until just incorporated. Do not over mix!  Gently fold the blueberries into the mixture.

Distribute the batter equally among the cups. The cups should each be about 3/4 full.

Place the muffins in the oven and bake at 375°F until the muffins are golden brown, about 25-30 minutes. Test with a toothpick to make sure the centers of the muffins are done.

Let the muffins cool in the muffin pan for 2 to 3 minutes, then remove them from the pan. Let cool another 10 minutes before eating.  Once cooled, the muffins can be frozen and will still be great at a later date.

Recipe brought to you by and Andy and Ann.


  1. Pingback: The Raggedy Awards: Year Four | Big Little Meals

  2. theRaggedys says:

    From an anonymous reader: “Covid quarantine has obviously distilled the wit and wisdom of a pair of Deserans who fly through Sonoma County every few weeks. Though not blue and certainly not always happy, they bring great joy to their faithful readers. Thank you.”


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